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Bible Scriptures, Christian Lifestyle, Devotionals, Faith

Devotional 12: Have Fear? Seek God.

As I sat down at my computer to craft this week’s blog post, I was torn about what to write about.

  • Do I talk about my recent gardening projects and use it as a metaphor for how God cultivates us to grow in Him?
  • Do I share about a moment that almost cost me my faith?
  • Do I pull back the curtain of my life and share about the events that led me to Christ?
  • Do I illustrate our inclination to manipulate and control our will and way using a funny story about my kids?

Those are certainly topics on my writing to-do list, I thought, but what struck me in that moment is the realization that we are always choosing which face to show each day.

Sometimes it is deeply personal. At others, we hold our heart close.

That’s, of course, with other people.

But are we that way with God? I would argue that we are. At least sometimes.

Yet, no matter what is going on in our lives, our attitudes and actions, whatever is on our hearts, should be readily offered on the alter of the Lord.

Through prayer, we can share our deepest hurts, our ugliest decisions, our self-serving motives, and our most unworthy human deficits.

Why? Because he truly cares for us.

I tell people often: God wants to hear from you.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10: 29-30 (ESV)

The pervasiveness of FEAR

One raw emotion that recurs throughout the Bible is Fear.

In both the Old and New Testaments, God promises us freedom from fear that arises in our daily lives.

The fear you experience — fear of losing a loved one, fear of losing income/job, fear of declining health, fear of unexpected news, fear of never meeting your potential — plagues even the faithful. And for some of you reading this, it surfaces almost daily. 

Whatever the fear, God promises to free us of it and what a great promise that is!

This freedom comes from trusting in God who protects and helps us.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (ESV)

In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you. Isaiah 54:14 (ESV)

The New Testament teaches that perfect loves drives out fear. (1 John 4:18)

Indeed, as Christians, we are no longer slaves of fear, for Christ has given us not a spirit of timidity or to shrink back from the challenges life brings us, but a spirit to fight — a spirt of power, of love and of self-control, according to 2 Timothy 1:7.

An invitation to ‘not be afraid’

The expression “fear not,” which is also translated “do not fear” or “do not be afraid,” is an invitation to confidence and trust that God repeatedly offers His people. It is used at least 15 times in the Bible as an expression of comfort, in fact.

Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. Psalm 49:16 (ESV)

And now my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. Ruth 3: 11 (ESV)

It is clear from God’s Word, that he welcomes us to a life that is marked by transparency and raw emotion.

I referenced alters earlier.

Our spiritual ancestors used alters to offer the Lord sacrifices, but it also represents a proper worship of God.

When we offer this proper sacrifice to God — when we’re transformed in our actions and mind, and obedient to Christ — it is pleasing to Him. If our sacrifice is acceptable to God it is known to manifest blessings and covenant renewal in Exodus 20:24.

In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.

When we doubt and feel the tremors that are brought on by an earthquake of fear, we can also call on the Lord and remember Him, who is readily available and brings us comfort and peace during our times of trouble.

Dear friend, surrender that which is plaguing you today. Take off the mask. Let down your guard. And let the Lord come to you with all his holiness and might.

What is plaguing you in this time of your life? How is it interfering with your proper worship of God?

Reference: Butler, Trent C. (1991) Holman Bible Dictionary, 481-482.

Christian Lifestyle, Inspirational

Devotional 11: Does God expect exact obedience to the Bible?

My husband was almost out the door this morning, and on his way to work, before he turned back and called out to our daughter upstairs.

“Could you feed Mimi (our cat) before you leave for school?” he yelled.

“Sure!” she yelled back.

Apparently, she was unsure of his request; perhaps the shoving of things into her backpack drowned out his exact words.

But just as my husband’s foot crossed the threshold of the front door, she yelled: “WAIT! What did you say daddy?”

In seeking clarification, it was apparent in our daughter’s  voice that she desired to get this right, like an Olympic gymnast who wants — no, needs — to stick her landing.

When acting on a request from daddy, our little 9-year-old understands that precision and accuracy matters.

Old Testament Instructions for Obedience

There’s something about God’s character as demonstrated in the Old Testament that reminded me of what transpired this morning between my husband and daughter.

And I got to wondering: Does God require obedience and precision in following the Bible?

The dictionary defines obedience as “the act or practice of obeying; dutiful or submissive compliance.” And though the word precision doesn’t appear in the Bible, the word “sin” in Greek means “failure, being in error, missing the mark.”

To that end, God has a way of being very exact in his expectations for his people, the Israelites, in the Old Testament.

Just read Leviticus if you want to get a taste of what I’m talking about.

In Leviticus, God gives specific directions for the kind of worship that would be pleasing to him.

The Lord offers instructions for the offerings, instructions for the priests, instructions for the people, and instructions for the altar.

He sets a standard for his people, those who would call on him to be saved, those who are “set apart” and “holy,” and those, in a very real and tangible way, are to be different from everyone else.

And though we no longer live under the old covenant, thanks to Jesus Christ, it got me wondering whether he expects the same level of obedience among today’s , New Testament-focused believers?

Sure, the Lord has provided a way of salvation and sanctification that depends on our trusting in Jesus, and not necessarily in our own feeble efforts to “be good.”

And of course there’s grace.

But if the Bible says go left, then why would we even think about going right?

And if Jesus sets the standard of living for modern-day Christians then why should our lives look much different from his?

The culture and standard of living is different from ancient history, to be sure, but the key tenets of sacrificial living, obedience, and humility that Jesus embodied should underpin our lives, too. Right?

Is it possible to wholly align our lives with the Bible?

To answer this question, the Spirt led me to 1 Timothy 4: 11-16 (NIV), in which the Apostle Paul writes to his protege Timothy:

Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote  yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you though a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Let’s disregard for the time being that Bible scholars believe Timothy was in his 20s at the time of this writing, and that the term “young” applies to anyone under the age of 40.

During this era in which Apostle Paul pens this letter to Timothy,  occurring some time after Timothy joined Apostle Paul in AD 50, society deemed young people as lacking self-control and less responsible, more violent, sexually promiscuous, reckless, etc. Could the same be said for people today in your part of the world?

The Apostle Paul here was admonishing Timothy to be and do the opposite of what society expected of someone his age.

Not only that, he called him to a higher standard as a follower of Christ, one that resisted the temptations of the world.

He told him to lead and to devote himself to Christ’s teaching.

Resist the temptation to cherry-pick scriptures to apply to your life, and know that this message to Timothy also applies to us today.

Hold Unswervingly to the Apostle’s Teachings

Getting back to my question, is it possible to live by the Bible, unswervingly, in today’s society?

Maybe a better question is: Can believers attempt to live by the Bible, unswervingly?

I say unequivocally yes!!

In Acts 2:42 (NIV), the Apostle Peter indicated that the new believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

That word “devoted.”

It means “to appropriate by or as if by a vow; set apart or dedicate by a solemn or formal act; consecrate.”

What if we were that? DEVOTED. It’s such a great word.

It occurs in the English Standard Bible 66 times!

Look, we’re not going to be perfect. That’s a given.

We are, in fact, a fallible people.

But at the very least, we can try.

Try to be “devoted.”

Try to know the Bible. And to know it in context.

Try to live by God’s decrees.

Try to honor the Lord in everything we say, do and think.

Just try.

And then don’t give up on trying.

Yes, living for God is a heart matter, but it’s also a matter of obedience.

And if we fail to align our “doctrine” with our life, as Paul suggested to Timothy, then we will also fail to save ourselves and those who hear our testimony.

The Bible Can Change Your Life

Look at it this way: The Bible is not just a book; it can change your life.

As John 8:32 says, knowing Jesus’ teaching is knowing the “truth and the truth will set you free.” (Who doesn’t want to be free?)

If you do in fact want to live a “good life,” then the Bible is useful for that, too.

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy3:16-17 (NIV)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a person who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the person who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.” James 1: 22-25 (NIV)

As for me, I want the heart of the ancient believers who wrote the following Psalms.

I’m not quite there yet, but I just love how they describe their affinity for God’s word:

I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:16

…for I delight in your commands, which I love and I meditate on your decrees. Psalm 119:47

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Psalm 119:97

All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. Psalm 18:22

What do you believe? Do you think it’s possible to live by the Bible in today’s world, and to follow it precisely? Do you allow God’s word to be the “authority” of your faith and life, to be the “deciding factor” in everything you say, do and think? Sound off in the comments section below!

Bible Scriptures, Faith, Family, Uncategorized

Devotional 10: How to Raise Confident Kids

I am regularly asking parents about their child-rearing techniques.

It’s not that I think I’m bad at parenting, but I love gleaning parenting ideas from other moms, dads and other caregivers.

I understand that there is no one-sized-fits-all approach for raising kids.

But among the Christian parents I know, we all agree that the Bible holds the answers to our child-raising challenges.

Book Project on Raising Godly Kids

This is why I set out to write a book that encapsulated some of the best advice for raising godly girls in today’s world. I have a daughter and a son, but because my daughter is older, I thought I’d focus my research there.

I’ve interviewed several parents so far, and as you would expect, I’ve actually learned some tips that apply to both sexes.

There is a common thread among the parents I’ve interviewed, too.

And that is, we all tend to approach child-raising from the perspective of our own childhoods.

There may be some tweaks here and there.

For the most part, however, today’s parents tend to mirror their moderately “normal” childhoods. It is only in extreme situations and dysfunction do we see a major departure from our own parents’ child-raising styles.

For example:

If our parents spank, then we instituted corporal punishment (at least some version) as a form of discipline, too.

If our parents were diligent about teaching us the Bible or church attendance, then we also put an emphasis on the same as well.

If our parents tended to get angry and yell when they were upset, then, unfortunately, we will be more inclined to do the same with our own children.

You see the pattern.

No matter the good or the bad, it often gets passed down from generation to generation.

But, as a Jesus follower, it’s important we not base our parenting skills on experience alone.

That’s where the Bible is so critical to doing it the “right” way.

Notice that I didn’t say “perfect” way, because I don’t think there is necessarily a “perfect” way to raise a child.

But armed with scriptural references and a foundation based on pleasing God alone, I think we can get pretty close to perfection.

Planting Spiritual Seeds

The Bible references the planting of seeds, particularly the mustard seed (the smallest of all seeds) to suggest that something (in this case, faith) as small as an pen point can produce impressive outcomes.

When translating this metaphor to parenting, it holds a great deal of hope for us parents who trudge along, day in and day out, trying to raise our children the best way possible.

There was a 1950s movie called The Bad Seed about a little girl who was adopted.

Spoiler alert: The 8-year-old child killed another student and it was later revealed that her biological parent was a notorious serial killer. The storyline goes on to suggest that her murderous behavior was genetic and could not be reversed by “good parenting or a wholesome environment.”

I think Hollywood produced the movie to scare parents into subversively thinking that nothing can change a child.

Okaaaay. So maybe the intent wasn’t so sinister. Perhaps it was only meant to be a blockbuster of a psychological thriller.

Nonetheless, I want to let you know that according to my Bible, I beg to differ with the notion that a child (and an adult, for that matter) is incapable of change.

Generations were eternally re-directed because of Jesus Christ. Individuals whose ancestors believed in less inferior gods since the Old Testament, put away their ancestors’ beliefs and unrighteous behaviors when they put their trust in Jesus.

And so it is with you, dear parent.

It doesn’t matter what your past looked like.

What matters is the choice you make today — and every day, for that matter — in your decisions made regard to parenting.

Jesus told the parable of the mustard seed and that one’s faith as small as it can move mountains. That’s an incredible promise!

Faith & Parenting Go Hand-in-Hand

Where does your faith stand today?

If you believe godly parenting methods will produce “good fruit” down the road, no matter how small the effort, then it is your faith that brings that desire to fruition.

The Apostle Paul used another seed metaphor to describe how another person’s faith can grow.

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 1 Corinthians 3:6 NIV

Indeed, it is ultimately God who will make the seeds we plant in our children right now, to grow.

As a parent, we have the opportunity to plant seeds. Every. Single. Day.

And according to the Bible, planting seeds in children can happen just about anywhere:

  • In the car,
  • at home,
  • while you’re making pancakes in the morning,
  • while you’re helping out with homework after school,
  • as you sit in the passenger seat as your teenager practices her driving skills,
  • on the way to Grandma’s house, and
  • before saying good night.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Deuteronomy 6:6-8 NIV

To put something on your heart in Old Testament times, is similar to our modern version of taking something “to heart,” which means to commit to it with loyalty.

In other words, as parents, we are called to be committed to God’s Holy Scriptures and to teach them to our children, and to never give up on this endeavor.

If you keep at it, wisdom and moral principles in your children will prevail.

Three Primary Way to Grow Confident Kids

The Deuteronomy passage is specific enough, but here are some other practical ways to raise children who are confident in God, based on the Bible:

1. Pray for your children. Prayer takes faith, repetition and routine. Don’t give up on praying for your children, no matter how old they get or how wayward their lives may end up as adults, the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective (James 5:16 NIV).

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6 NIV

2. Ask God for wisdom in raising your children. God raised the most perfect son who ever lived: Jesus! How much more equipped is He to help you raise your own child? Ask the Lord for guidance as you determine the best methods for instilling righteous values in your children, and He will give you everything you need.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1:5-6 NIV

3. Seek advice from other godly parents.

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Proverbs 12:15 NIV

Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance. Proverbs 20:18 NIV

At times, it will feel like we are waging war with our own kids, under our own roof. But have no fear. Seek perspective from parents who’ve “been there, done that.” As I suggested earlier in this post, parents of children with older kids and even peers are a great source of advice. When you’ve gone through something already, you tend to have a better sense of how to avoid missteps and what you could’ve done better. And most parents are more than willing to help you avoid their mistakes if you simply ask.

4. Don’t withhold discipline from your children. Kids need routine and they need to be told what to do and what not to do. Discipline is necessary to raise confident children because it establishes boundaries. Contrary to what popular thinking says, boundaries are actually a good thing for children.

Keep in mind that it is important to discipline children out of love, not when you’re angry.

When it comes from a place of love, discipline also shows our children that we are concerned about their wellbeing and their character development. Without correction, children inevitably grow up with no clear sense of direction.

According to scholars, the Egyptian “Instructions of Ankhsheshonq,” a priest who was imprisoned and wrote a set of instructions to his young son, points out that “the children of fools wander in the streets, but the children of the wise are at their parents’ sides.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be known as having children who are devoted to me and my husband and stick to our sides rather than those who “wander” the streets.

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24 NIV

5. Encourage their identity in Christ. Most children grow up with not necessarily a sense of their own identity in Christ. They lean more-so on their parent’s faith, rather than develop one of their own. To an extent, that’s okay and to be expected. But if we expect our faith will eventually “rub off” on them, then we are misguided and deceived.

It takes work to pour faith and righteous living into your children. It’s not something that just “happens.”

We can plant the seeds, however, by sharing how their identity is (or should be) rooted in Christ.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.     1 Peter 2:9 NIV

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1: 3-4 NIV

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-15 NIV

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. 2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV

Remind your children that they are different, and that being different is okay.

Tell them they are “chosen,” a royal priesthood, holy, God’s “special possession,” etc.

Show them that their identify is not rooted in this world, but rather is already established by the One who made the world and everything in it!

What’s your advice? How do you raise righteous children? Please share your tips and scriptures in the comments section below!

Bible Scriptures, Ministry

Devotional 9: God’s Grace to the Sinner & the Saint

The story of the prodigal son, which is found in Luke 15: 11-32, tells of a young man who squanders his inheritance through wild partying and reckless spending.

But after losing everything, he resorts to taking a job feeding pigs. He’s so poor when a famine hits that he steals chow from the pigs in order to quiet the rumblings in his own stomach.

Hitting rock bottom, the story indicates that this young man finally “came to his senses,” realizing that even the hired hands on his father’s farm were in a better position than he was in that moment.

He set out to go back to his father, and on his way plans what he will say to him: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.”

But before the young man could even get the words out, his father, seeing his son approaching in the distance, starts to sprint, embraces and welcomes his child home.

Imagine the look on his young son’s face when he felt his father’s arms wrap around his frail body.

The parable is such a beautiful metaphor for the redemption and reconciliation that awaits anyone who turns away from wrongdoing and seeks a relationship with God.

It serves as a great reminder that the almighty God always, always meets us where we are.

Anger after years of devotion

Meanwhile, in verses 25-32, the eldest son — the one who committed his life and made the choice to doing his father’s work — is fuming, becoming angrier as he witnessed his younger brother receiving the royal treatment.

I can just hear the disgruntlement begin to percolate.

Who does he think he is showing up after all this time?
He thinks he’s so special.
What about me? Look at everything I’ve done for Father!

The older son, like a petty child, refused to take part in the festivities to celebrate his little brother’s homecoming.

Seething, I’m sure, the Bible says he “refuses to go in.”

In another surprising act, the father leaves the party and goes outside to reason with the older son.

Bible scholars believe that ancient hearers might have expected the father to discipline the elder son; instead, the father listens to his son, and in a loving and understanding tone attempts to impart wisdom as the sounds of revelry reverberate in the background.

The elder son laments:

Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!

Was the older son hurt? It sure sounds like it.

Was the older son bitter? You bet.

In his mind, he had devoted himself to doing what the father wanted, and wasn’t so much as thanked for his devotion. He believed he was entitled to the better treatment. He was superior, he thought. But, in fact, he was wrong.

The father, gracious and all-knowing, saw otherwise. Because the younger son was “dead and is alive again” and “lost and is found” this warranted a celebration.

The parable teaches us what is important to our Father in heaven — and that is, when a lost soul comes home. Commitment and devotion are pleasing in the Lord’s sight, too. But when our motives are self-centered, as is shown by the elder son,  this bothers God. And it should also bother us.

Which ‘son’ are you?

At times we are that lost child as is the prodigal son, the one who strays. The one who squanders everything. The one who then grovels back to God for forgiveness and reconciliation.

On the other hand, especially for those who’ve walked faithfully with the Lord for some time, it’s easy to follow the pattern of the elder son, who grew bitter, jealous and prideful after years of dedication.

Which one are you?

I believe the older son could have prevented his unrighteous response.

At least, I’d like to think he could.

And here’s how I believe those in ministry and in other leadership roles can avoid resentment while in service to others:

  • Be open about your shortcomings and confess your sins. No one is perfect. Not even the most devoted Christian. Routinely humble yourself before God, and a trusted spiritual mentor, as you examine your heart and actions. Romans 3:23 NIV says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Moreover, no one “should claim to be without sin,” according to 1 John 1:8 NIV.
  • Show compassion. God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness, according to 2 Chronicles 30:9 and Psalm 86:15. Throughout the Bible, God rescues and forgives his people when they turn back to Him. In the same way, Jesus showed compassion “when he saw the crowds… because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36 NIV) What this world absolutely needs from those who are faithful to God, is more compassion, more love and more grace. After all, that is what God showed us because “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV)
  • Share your testimony and minister to others. If you’re a believer, then the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 applies to you. We are called to baptize and to teach others. Holding a pastoral role, in whatever capacity in your local church, puts you in a position to regularly share how God has changed you and is currently shaping you. Don’t miss out on that opportunity by using your leadership role to talk only about how “great” your life is or what blessings God is bestowing on your life or barking orders about what other church members “need” to do. Rather, use it is a platform to elevate the love and mercy God extends to anyone who becomes a disciple of Jesus. Share your story. As a result, I pray, as the Apostle Paul writes in Philemon 6, that your partnership in the faith “may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.”
  • Stop thinking you’re better than someone else. The Apostle Paul urges believers in Romans 12:3 (NIV): “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” He is referring in this passage to roles in the church, but the advice is appropriate for any situation. The statement could’ve certainly helped knock some sense into the elder brother in an ancient parable that continues to teach modern-day believers the value of right-sized thinking in times when all seems ….”unfair.”

Share your thoughts! How do you guard against disgruntlement, discontent and bitterness while serving in ministry or other leadership roles in and outside the church?

Christian Lifestyle, Devotionals, Faith

Devotional 8: Has Your Love Grown Cold?

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold... Matthew 24:12

This was the scripture that led the discussion at a recent midweek service. It was a topic that immediately struck a cord because I had been thinking about disobedience and sin — the things that can separate us from God.

The scriptures and questions that followed probed my heart, and I’m sure others in the room.

They were the kind of questions that I think were meant to make you stop and think about whether you were in right standing with the Lord.

The pastor comfortingly urged us to explore the questions, honestly and with intentionality.

You see, what keeps us in communion with God is our heart. We can be doing and saying all the “right” things, the religious things, but if our heart’s not really focused on the Lord and His will for our lives, then it’s all just facade.

A heart for God follows the pattern of 2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.

Indeed, there is an urgency to get right with God. You’re alarmed by unrighteous behavior. And you’re concerned that a misalignment with God leads to disconnection with Him.

For this reason, I want to share my notes with you from that night, in hopes that you, too, will allow your heart to be pierced.

Thanks for stopping by, dear friend. It’s time to reclaim your First Love.

Let’s explore…

  1. If the Bible did a quick body scan of your thoughts and heart, would it register as ‘devoted’?
  2. When was the last time you had a deep dive in God’s word, the Holy Bible?
  3. When we read the Bible does it ‘read’ you back? The Word of God should be a mirror. James 1 says, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror.” In other words, are you letting the Bible change you, or are you walking away having no sense of your condition before God? Just like a woman checks her appearance before walking out the door, so should the Bible govern your attitudes and behaviors at all times and help you “course correct” before you get off track.
  4. Are you reading the Bible simply for information — or transformation?
  5. Don’t violate the boundaries that God has set for your protection, or you will succumb to evil desires. You will eventually lose your identity in Christ and start to reflect the world.
  6. Love grows cold when there is an increase in obscenity, debauchery, perversion, laziness, selfishness, pride, and disobedience to God’s Word.
  7. When there is an increase of man there is an decrease of God. In other words, if you’re constantly putting your needs and desires before God’s expect a lesser degree of holy living and God’s blessings to follow.
  8. When your spirituality is compromised, one’s love for God grows cold.
  9. Even as a self-proclaimed Christian/disciple of Christ, you can be physically present in church even though your heart has departed from God a while ago. Is your heart still aligned with pursuing righteousness?
  10. Is Satan ‘doing’ you in? Sin can make you feel weighed down, “spiritually fat,” and out of shape. According to John 10:10, the enemy’s only intent is on stealing, killing and destroying you. However, the good news is that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is here to give you life in abundance!
  11. Are you obedient?
  12. Do you weigh your life on a righteous scale? Or do you weigh your life on a worldly scale?
  13. Are you spiritually able to keep in step with the Holy Spirit? Or are you falling behind? What’s holding you back?
  14. What are some habits of Godly living? Daily time with God, meditation on the scriptures, exhibiting fruits of the Spirit, sharing your faith, etc.
  15. Is your spiritual life a bestseller?
  16. Do you add light or darkness in your relationships? Is your inner spirit dead or alive?

I certainly hope you have found these questions and insights into God’s word heart-probing and that they help you reach higher spiritual ground!

Any questions or insight on staying close to God despite the increased wickedness in the world? Weigh in in the comments section below. Remember this: There is always hope in Jesus Christ! So please don’t despair. Blessing to you, my friend!

Bible Scriptures, Christian Lifestyle, Faith

Devotional 7: Does God Promise Us a ‘Good Life’?

The short answer is ‘no.’

God does not promise us a “good” life. But we can certainly offer Him a life that is “good,” by becoming a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing” to Him, according to Romans 12:1.


There’s one important thing you learn in journalism school and that is balanced reporting.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about answered prayers.

I shared how God was refining my character during a time of waiting, and how, eventually, God made a way for that prayer to be answered.

What I didn’t touch on is this: Your prayers won’t always get answered. And if they are answered, it may not be in the form you had hoped.

There’s a common misconception in the Christian community that God “wants” to bless us.

But is that true and, more importantly, is that biblical?

First of all, it’s important to distinguish what that word “bless” means. To one person it means material gain and to another it pertains to spiritual benefits, such as peace, eternal life with God, healing from past sin, comfort in times of trouble, etc.

That latter description would be more accurate.

Does God have plans to prosper you?

An often quoted scripture to espouse God’s desire for blessing is Jeremiah 29:11-14.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.

Taken out of context, this is a great feel-good scripture.

In America, we often make the mistake of translating this passage to mean we’ll get that bigger house and fancier car, or that we’ll rarely face a deadly sickness, or that we’ll land that next big career move, etc.

Thanks to the rampant “prosperity gospel” preached today, we are always at risk of applying scriptures to the superficial.

But, be assured of this, when God speaks He has something much bigger, more eternal, in mind: our salvation.

The Jeremiah promise can certainly be applied to modern-day believers, but it’s important to read the passage (or chapters) in its entirety.

The prophetic message was to the Israelites, God’s chosen people, who continuously wandered away from the truth and worshiped other gods.

The prophet Jeremiah was chosen by God to tell the Israelites how they were royally messing up in the eyes of the Lord, and to turn from their wrongdoing — immediately, or else.

Have you ever outright resisted God’s commands?

The people of Judah, one of the 12 tribes of Israel, whom Jeremiah is addressing in this passage, were an obstinate people, resisting God’s standard.

Still, the Lord cared for them. And God continually sent prophets to warn them when they forsook God in favor of a lesser, often handmade, deity.

Jeremiah described it best in chapter 25 verse 3:

For 23 years — from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon King of Judah until this very day — the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened. And though the Lord has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention. They said, “Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the Lord gave to you and your fathers for ever and ever. Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not provoke me to anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.” (emphasis mine)

Did you catch the last part there?



God says to “turn,” “do not follow,” “do not provoke,” and “…then I will not harm you.”

There is a condition attached to God’s protection that is made clear in this passage before we even get to the promise that so many of us like to quote in Jeremiah 29.

What’s the lesson here?

Simply that, in order to apply Jeremiah 29: 11-14 (God’s protection from harm, spiritual prosperity and so on) to your present-day life, it’s imperative to also adhere to Jeremiah 25, which dictates a number of offenses on the part of the Israelites which we are susceptible to doing as well.

Therefore, if you want to slap the Jeremiah 29:11-14 bumper sticker to your life, go right ahead.

But be aware of the conditions, according to Jeremiah 25:

  1. Don’t ignore God. If you hear His voice, listen, pay attention and do what He says. Where do you “hear” God’s voice? In his Word, of course. The Holy Bible. Simply read it and apply it your life. While you’re at it, be careful not to cherry pick scriptures, but seek to understand a passage in context.
  2. Turn from your evil ways and practices. (For an overview of specific sins that can separate you from God’s protection, read Galatians 5: 19-21; Mark 7:20-22; Revelation 21:8; 2 Chronicles 33:6)
  3. Do not follow, serve or worship other gods. Other ‘gods’ include another lesser deity but it could mean yourself, a spouse/significant other, children, a celebrity, material possessions, profession/accolades, a t.v. show, etc. — anything or anyone that takes precedence in your life more than serving God.
  4. Do not provoke God to anger. Do a search for what may ‘provoke’ God and refer back to the scriptures on sins mentioned earlier. You’ll find that many acts in the Bible incited God’s anger, including casting spells, speaking to the dead, lack of worship, and sexual sins.

As the book of Jeremiah suggests, a “right” relationship with God — obedience to Him — must always precede any kind of blessing.

To live a “blessed” life, you can never go wrong by patterning your life after his son Jesus, who was without sin.

And that, my dear sisters, takes effort, not perfection.

What do you think? Have you ever experienced a time when repentance led to a spiritual or material blessing? Please share in the comments section below!

Christian Life, Family, Inspiration

Devotional 6: Lesson Learned on a Family Roadtrip

My family and I were in Georgia for the Fourth of July holiday, visiting my mom, dad, and one of my older brothers. The 13-hour drive to see them is always an opportunity to reflect on life and where I’m going.

Long drives can do that, you know.

As we pass other vehicles on the road, destinations and pit stops, it’s a reminder that we’re all on this journey, a journey that is oftentimes rife with the proverbial bumper-to-bumper traffic, detours, bumps in the road, and near-death collisions. Oh, how unexpected life can be.

Long road trips are also a lot of fun. My two children in the back seat, with their endless appetites, chomp away at snacks that I pack for the family. They sometimes fight over who gets to use the electronic device first. Every once in a while, we’ll all join voices and sing one of our favorite gospel songs by Tasha Cobbs, sounding so woefully off-key.

Yes, family road trips are a reminder that life is not all good, but not all bad either.

My dear husband drives about 90 percent of the way. I take a couple of naps during our journey. Feeling refreshed, I ask if he needs a break, and more than often he says no. I offer again as we near Atlanta, which is usually when his fatigue really starts to set in.

As I get behind the wheel, adjust the mirrors and seat, I can’t help but think about how blessed this life is.

For one, it’s a privilege to visit my mom and dad. Though they are getting up and age, and their bodies show signs of wear-and-tear, they are still on this side of heaven. For that, I am grateful.

Family. It warms my heart to be in their presence.

I get a feeling of wholeness when we make the long trek to Georgia from Washington, DC.

Sure, we could take trips to more exotic locations or locales in the U.S. where the air smells different and new. I’m sure the kids wouldn’t mind an amusement park now and then, instead of the Georgia countryside. But, no, Disneyworld can wait.

Let’s be honest. Life is so fleeting.

James, Jesus’ brother and a leader in the church, said it best:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If this is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

No matter how long we live, this life is a blink of an eye compared to eternity.

I am humbly aware that my shelf-life here on earth is short. In fact, it is not even in my hands. My life, your life, is in God’s hands.

Being aware of my humanity compels me to listen to the Holy Spirit, which guides me and presses upon my heart the righteous thing to do.

It is that soft whisper that compels me to go see my family whenever there’s a chance. In doing so, I submit to the Lord’s will.

And I am all the more better for it. Time with family, in the place we call our roots, refreshes the soul.

As James suggested, tomorrow is not promised. Our earthly lifetime is, indeed, short. Therefore, let’s not put off tomorrow, what we could do today.

Here are some simple ideas from my own life:

  1. Spend quality time with a loved one.
  2. Call a friend/family member and tell them you love them.
  3. Forgive a wrong.
  4. Speak honestly to someone who needs it.
  5. Give a much-needed hug.
  6. Let go of regret.
  7. Kick a bad habit.
  8. Try something new.
  9. Get real with God and turn away from a sin/fear/doubt/insecurity/bitterness, etc.
  10. Serve someone in need.

What are you putting off tomorrow, that you could be doing today?

Devotionals, Faith, Family

Devotional 5: The Summer We Unintentionally Lived Minimally

2016 was the year we sold our first “family” home.

It was the house my husband and I brought our two children to after leaving the hospital. It was where we struggled financially to make ends meet after I decided to become a stay-at-home mom. It was also where I studied the Bible with a number of women, had house church with fellow disciples and prayed over countless situations.

But it was time for a change, preferably one that was a little bigger than the 2-bedroom, 1 bath, 800-square-foot row house our family had outgrown.

Like most life situations, this change did not come easy and was a long time coming.

After living in that home for nearly 8 years, we put our house on the market in August of 2016.

Though we got an offer the first week, we actually didn’t sell the house until the following year in June.

Because of the timing of the sell, we had to move into a hotel for a week as we waited to close on a house that we put an offer on. We put an offer on a house, but it appeared the seller was having second thoughts.

This is the part of the story where God’s sovereignty really shines.

That week of “homelessness” (I use that term lightly) turned into two weeks.

During this time, I started praying fervently. I told God about my hesitation in buying that particular house because it needed a lot of work. I let Him know that I didn’t feel right about it. Our goal was to move to a safer, more family-friendly neighborhood, I said, not to find ourselves in a situation that would frustrate us and lead to mounting debt in trying to modernize this fixer upper.

Finally, I asked and petitioned God to make it clear. Make it clear he did.

A day after that prayer, we got a call from our realtor saying the seller was withdrawing the contract because they found a better buyer.

God answers prayers, y’all!!

Minimalist life

The story doesn’t end there, however.

We proceeded to move from that hotel to another hotel. From one Airbnb to another Airbnb, and finally to a friend’s house and rental by the end of summer. We moved 9 times the summer of 2016!

We lived out of two suitcases during that entire time. We were living the Minimalist life!

Ironically, my kids were unfazed by all the moving. Quite frankly, if it were not for having to move so often, it was actually quite liberating not having a mortgage or utility bills.

I learned some things about myself during that time that has proved invaluable.

  1. I need a lot less “stuff” than I have. (This isn’t the first time I’ve lived with next to nothing in my possession, so this wasn’t especially new.)
  2. God wants to renew your faith during times of  wilderness (and bewilderment). When you’re not sure what’s happening, it’s a great time to simply be still.

As we were waiting for someone to buy our home, and as we looked to buy a new one ourselves, so many scenarios were playing through my mind. Doubt. Fear. Even a little bitterness.

Bible Application

Thankfully, I did a deep Bible study leading up to the Summer of 2016 that reminded me of God’s sovereignty during that time.

I studied the early days of the Israelites and their pilgrimage to the Promised Land, I see a God who is gracious and just, devoted and faithful — despite our lack of faith and obedience.

He desires dependence, trust and faith in Him — not faith in our ability to please Him.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” NIV

Despite the uncertainty, I recalled times past.

God has never failed me. And I’m sure if you look back on your life, He has never failed you either.

As for me, I only needed to trust in Him and his divine purpose for my life, my family’s life.

As I surrendered, gradually at first, I began to rest in God’s holiness and grew confident in the direction he was ushering us in. I knew he wouldn’t leave us without a place to land.

I also knew that it was no coincidence that the offer on the original house we offered to purchase fell through!

We eventually did find our ideal home at the price point we could afford.

Do I need to say it again? God answers prayers, y’all!!

If you’re struggling in your faith, just remember what God has already brought you through. Live and walk in righteousness and obedience to Him, and he will give you rest.

“Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6 NIV

Is God testing you? In what areas of your life do you need more faith and/or obedience? Share in the comments section below!

Bible Scriptures, Christian Lifestyle, Faith, Family, Inspiration

Devotional 4: Waiting on the Lord

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3 NIV

When you’re waiting for God to answer your prayers, do you doubt or have faith?

Three years ago, I sat on a friend’s living room sofa on the verge of tears.

I felt stuck. I wanted out.

More specifically, I was growing weary of living in a two-bedroom, one bath house in a rough part of the city.

I wanted something better for our young family. But “better” was taking too long to get here.

My dear friend listened as I lamented. She offered some encouragement.

While it didn’t make things better right away, the talk did help me gain some perspective. And it gave me a chance to off-load some things that were weighing on my heart.

The epiphany: My lack of faith

It was around that time that I realized I was failing to trust in the Lord.

It had been 7 years since we moved into that house, when we thought we’d only be there for two.

Somewhere along the way, I had lost my faith.

I started wondering if God didn’t want our family to move.

Is there something in my character that God wants to prune?, I thought.

Perhaps there’s someone here that he wants me to reach on His behalf, my mind wandered.

Or could it be that we’re just not ‘ready’ for that kind of blessing and responsibility? I asked quietly.

Over the next several months, I prayed. Studied the scriptures. And asked the Lord to show me where I was falling short.

He did, in fact, reveal some things that was darkening my heart and chipping away at my faith.

Once corrected, I saw the darkness lift.

My faith was restored.

Suddenly, I started to dream again.

Taking steps to receive the blessing.

With the Lord’s help, our family took steps that put us in a position to buy a new home.

But of all the things we did in preparation for the next stage, the most critical step was the clarifying moment when I repented of unbelief.

The writer of the book of Hebrews declared that:

“[W]ithout faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV

In reading the gospels, it was evident that people lacking faith displeased Jesus, and dare I say, even disgusted him?

See Matthew 8:26; Matthew 14:31 and Luke 12:28.

Therefore, dear friends, I pray that wherever you are in life, whatever struggle you currently face, that you have faith in the midst of the difficulty.

James 1:6 NIV puts it plainly:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

I don’t share this story to claim that simply repenting can lead to material blessings. That would be misguided and unspiritual. I share this story to show that there is often a direct relation between our circumstance and our faith and obedience to God.

So, what happened in the end?

How does my story end, you ask?

Well, I’m sitting here in a new home that is more spacious and, for the most part, considerably safer. And I praise God for revealing my shortcoming and allowing a chance to change courses.

It only took about two years from the day I sat on my friend’s couch for God to deliver an outcome I had once thought was so far out of reach.

Lessons learned?

Wait “expectantly” for the Lord, as Psalm 5:3 suggests. Trust that He hears your prayers and wants to refine you, and not necessarily to withhold from you. Don’t doubt.

I wonder what God will do in your life two years from now? Where in your life do you need to replace doubt with faith?

Christian Life, Faith, Prayer

Devotional 3: Let’s Get Real

One reason we struggle w/ insecurity: we’re comparing our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel. Steven Furtick

Seven months ago, we moved into a new home.

My husband came home and said one of his supervisors suggested he host a get-together at our house as a kick-off and team building effort. He immediately quipped, saying “I don’t have a big house. I don’t have much furniture. Have you seen what I drive? It’s a beat-up, 10 year-old Toyota Forerunner. People would not be impressed with our home.”

It’s not that he was opposed to hosting something, but he knew from this supervisor’s request that she assumed we lived in well-off. To an extent, we do. But probably not in a way that was percolating in her mind’s eye.

The fact of the matter is, there’s a tendency in the DC, Maryland and Virginia area to live up to other people’s expectations and to use an old phrase, “Keep up with the Jones’.”

I’ll be honest, that desire sometimes hits me, too. And I fight it. I fight it hard!

I’ve grown to appreciate and seek God’s approval over others. So if someone doesn’t appreciate my house for what it is? It doesn’t matter because it’s beautiful to me. (At least, that’s what I tell myself, even when I only half believe it.)

But I’ll be honest, the suggestion from my husband’s colleague did bring up some insecurities. And I wondered where my confidence truly lies.

Are you an effective witness for Christ online?

Like I said, I struggle with trying to give the appearance that I’ve got it all together and that my house, and my life, is picture perfect. But that wouldn’t be true. And when you think about it, what’s so wrong being imperfect, authentic and honest?

We live during a time where people, even Christians, crave attention, acquiring it through more “likes,” “followers,” and accolades. 

When did disciples of Jesus become such attention-seekers and spotlight hoggers? (Is that a word?)

It’s a tricky thing when you’re a Christian, too. Because there’s a temptation to play up your Christiandom. An update might read: “Wow. I’m so humbled to serve the poor today. #servingtheneedy”

Do humble people really need to announce on social networks what they’ve accomplished for the Lord?

I tell you, no. In fact, the Bible offers instructions on how to behave in situations such as this. Check this out:

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing… Matt. 6

If Jesus doesn’t want one hand to know what the other hand is doing, how much more would he disapprove of behavior that publicly showcases what are supposed to be humble acts of service?

When is it okay to ‘brag’?

Do you think there’s a way to share about these things without it being borderline or outright boastful? Perhaps.

How about inviting others to join you? What about sharing of a time when you weren’t so focused on other people, and because of Christ, you are able to help others today?

How about including scriptures on why it’s important to serve the poor? How about sharing about those acts of kindness as a way to persuade more people to follow Jesus, not follow you?

Let’s see what the Bible says about this…

But let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,
declares the Lord. Jeremiah 9:24 NIV

And again…

Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31 NIV

I recently wrote about the work that I’ve put into our little fixer-upper of a house. And when I reflect on that work,  it keeps me humble.

It reminds me of what it means to be frugal and wise with the money the Lord has blessed us with. And it reminds me that your house doesn’t necessarily be a masterpiece and impeccably designed in order for it to be a “home.” That what really matters is the presence of love inside those walls.

Similarly, as Christians, we don’t have to be perfect, or appear perfect, to be an effective witness for Christ.

In fact, authenticity and humility should rule our hearts — not the prospect for more likes, followers and high-fives from others, the onlookers and lurkers of the internet (as tempting as they may be).

What about you? How are you an effective witness for Christ on social media and in life in general?

Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:33